Introducing Brainspotting Proven, Innovative Brain-Body Treatment of Trauma
Most traditional therapies engage and concentrate on using the frontal parts of the brain to problem-solve or find the reasons for behaving in certain ways.
By focussing on the body and the sensations felt there, Brainspotting however bypasses the neocortex and reaches into much deeper parts of the brain. It goes straight into the subconscious and what lies hidden away there.
Typically at the beginning of a session, the therapist establishes the issue that the client would like to work on. After building rapport and significant safety, the client is then asked to bring to mind an image or moment that troubles them greatly relating to the issue. On a scale from 1 to 10 the practitioner then rates the distress that the client is feeling within their body.
Like all great discoveries, it happened quite by accident. Dr. David Grand was practicing psychology in New York in 2003 when an ice-skater came to see him. After numerous falls, one that led to a serious back injury, she was having trouble landing a triple loop jump. Every time she would try, her mind would go blank and her legs would go numb. He decided to do EMDR or (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) with her. It was a modality he had much success with while treating people affected by the 9/11 attacks. The treatment he embarked was nothing short of a miracle, this created the platform for a new technique that he would later call Brainspotting.
While Brainspotting had its origins in Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing ( EMDR) the two have a few notable differences. The biggest of which is that unlike EMDR the point of Brainspotting is to keep the focus on the feeling inside the body instead of unpacking the troubling event itself. Instead of therefore moving the eyes from left to right, the aim is to get the gaze to firmly fix in one spot.
To help them keep this eye position, trained Brainspotting practitioners are equipped with a pointer with a red tip similar to the one used by lecturers in lecturing halls when they want to point out important information in far-off corners.
At first, the practitioner moves the pointer horizontally in front of the client’s eyes. Sometimes they might move vertically or further away. All the while paying close attention to their client, and any subtle changes they might notice feeling inside.
As soon as the therapist sees any signs of blinking, swallowing, eyes-widening, or twitching the practitioner’s hand stops. This means that they have found a brain spot.
What is a brain spot
A brain spot has nothing to do with actual spots within the brain. Instead, identifying one has got more to do with the way a person feels when they look in certain directions.
Of all our senses, we receive most of our information through our eyes. Our eyes are constantly scanning our environments for signs of danger.
We can also use our eyes to take a look inside. Like a flashlight turned in on itself, we can shine a light internally to find the pieces of information that we’ve been missing.
During a traumatic or very emotional event, our brain’s processing capacities become overwhelmed. Like someone receiving a whole lot of emails first thing in the morning all at once, the best thing to do is to store it in the back somewhere for proper processing and filing later.
But later becomes weeks, even decades, and by this time you can’t remember the name of the file or where you put it. It’s only when our body signals its alarm while encountering or being reminded of a similar event that we might start to pay attention.
You might not know why you’ve been struggling with migraines so long or why your shoulders tense up every time you sit in front of your desk to work. You just know it doesn’t feel good and that it’s upsetting you. Just thinking of it makes your chest contract.
By mindfully focussing on the spot where you’re looking when you’re having these sensations, allows you to access exactly where in the brain, more specifically in the limbic system, the file or memory capsule is being kept.
Thanks to the safety provided by the therapist and the mind/body’s innate ability to heal, this capsule and the information stored there can finally be released and long-standing issues or symptoms related to it resolved.
FInd a therapist trained in Brainspotting by going to https://www.facebook.com/brainspottingafrica.
In the Winter Edition Vilien-Miri Coetzee, a wellness writer, will further explore Brainspotting.
Vilien is passionate about exploring various natural healing modalities. After six years of traditional therapy, she has found her way to Brainspotting. It’s been changing her life ever since, an experience she will share with us.